While supervising and participating in some pretty invasive maintenance at work this weekend, something occurred to me during one of the stretches where I didn't have to actively be working on something and I haven't been able to let it go. Ultimately I think it can be boiled down into the title of the thread, "Achievements, Accomplishments and Participation Trophies (or worse)". Many times I hear folks talk about how they don't care what other people think about their opinion, their skills, their experiences, etc. and in some instances I believe that to be the case. But I realized this weekend that the world; good, bad or otherwise, is geared to play off our emotional need to be recognized. This all started because of a video game. Yes, I said a video game. This game is one that I have on my smart phone (iPhone in this case) and I realized that I was being manipulated by this game. Let me start by saying that I have spent and will spend no fiat money on this game. I won't go into games and tracking and data mining, etc., that isn't what this is about. What is is about is the unconscious desire for validation. Every morning (midnight Eastern), all of the "spiffs" reset. When you first get the game, there are a half-dozen "things" to do within the game every day that provide you with in-game perks, whether it be money for a shop, upgrades for your character or the like. And there is a final perk for basically checking all the boxes for the day. As you advance through the game the list of daily tasks gets longer before you have checked the box and get the final, bigger, daily bonus. In addition, there are "achievements" based on milestones: acquiring X number of items or item types, reaching certain levels, spending a certain amount of in-game money, etc. None of which technically require spending actual cash but almost all of them are facilitated by doing so...basically you will NEVER be the number one person on the board by playing only free, it takes too long. As you progress through the game, and more areas within the game open up, the more you have to split your resources and time between upgrading different things within the game. You can't focus on just one aspect anymore, you have to focus on them all and spread yourself thin (or spend money) in order to advance and not get "left behind". No, I will not be spending money on this game. Lastly, and this is what got me really thinking about this, there are things that happen during the day. Namely there are 3 main times when you get a time-based bonus award. For me (being EDT) they are Noon (2 different perks), 18:00 (one perk) and 21:00 (one perk), and here's the gotcha. Once those perks drop, you have to log into the game and claim them within 2 hours, otherwise you lose them, and it was 1:45 yesterday when I realized, much to my horror, that I had almost missed my daily perk drop! And then I facepalmed. Holy, freaking, hell. I was going to lose out on my benefit, on my achievement on my...oh damn, it's a participation trophy at best. Video games are notorious for this. Anyone who has ever played Minecraft, it starts almost immediately. In Minecraft you have to break wood, almost first thing (by punching a tree...don't ask, just go with it), but before then, if you simply press the 'e' key on your keyboard, you get a popup on your screen that says: Achievement get! Taking inventory And everyone on the server gets an announcement...because you pressed the 'e' key on your keyboard. YAY YOU! And so it goes throughout the game. Upgrading your stuff from wood to stone. Killing your first animal or monster. Cooking your first food or smelting your first ore. Planting your first crop. Achievement get! But it's not... In the game on my phone and yes, it's still there (and I'm typing this over the Noon threshold but I have NOT opened it up and I have NOT gotten my Noon spiff! It can wait), there are achievements, but they aren't. They are milestones, sure, because I have met some pre-defined threshold, but no, I haven't achieved anything. And video games aren't alone in this: Get a discount when you spend a certain amount of money in a certain time frame at a certain store. Achievement get! Hit a certain amount of subscribers on your YouTube channel and get a star. Achievement get! Post a certain number of times on a forum (yes, sorry, even SM is guilty here) and get a PM at the very least. Achievement get! Now, this isn't always a bad thing, but like I mentioned before it can absolutely be used to manipulate us, giving us a false sense of accomplishment and spur us on to a certain type of behavior. But is it really a reward that we're getting or is it just emotional pandering? Sometimes it's a reward and if you are going to spend a certain amount of money at a store or you already buy X gallons of gas every month then yes, you can save money or get something actually useful for your time, energy or money. But in many if not most cases, it's a manipulation to make you feel like you got something or were rewarded...emotional at best, but truly has no effect on you or your life. On the other hand, near the end of the change window, I realized that we had actually accomplished something this weekend. We had migrated our entire telephony system from one pair of data centers to another, from physical servers to virtual machines, in less than 21 hours, including the time we took off overnight to SLEEP. We had saved the company (or enabled the company to save) hundreds of dollars a year in power costs and space rental (we're closing the old data centers and can't do it with hardware in place). And we did it with about a 3 minute dial-tone outage that only affected our ability to make or receive calls (all active calls stayed up), and about 3 hours where you couldn't access old voice mail but could still leave voice mail. What had originally been planned as a series of no less than 5 outages over the course of 6 weeks was accomplished in less than a single 24 hour period. While not the greatest achievement known to man, it was huge for us. And now that we're done, I'm confident that we will have no issues during the bridge on Monday morning because we've tested everything and it all works, 100%. I also made certain to thank everyone involved for the work that they did because without each and every one of them, we couldn't have achieved the desired outcome. We couldn't have accomplished everything we did in the time we did. And while for some, the only reward will be the lunch I bought for them, they will know that they did in fact achieve a great deal. Building/growing the largest garden in FarmVille isn't an accomplishment. Growing a single herb or vegetable plant is! Winning the most races in Forza ont he X-Box isn't an accomplishment. Changing your own oil or spark plugs or wiper blades is! Achieving 1 million views on your YouTube page/video isn't an accomplishment (in and of itself, although content might be). Starting that fire with a bow drill or building that lean-to or packaging up that food for long-term storage is! The world wants to manipulate us and in many cases I'm realizing that I'm not only willing to be manipulated, subconcously I welcome it. I like the recognition (love to see my posts liked but no, that isn't a hint), I like to feel like I've made a contribution and that others see and appreciate it. But getting my daily digital pellet because I pushed a button and feeling proud...wow, how far have I personally and we as a people and a society fallen? I'm taking stock, and I don't know how long it will last or if I'll just fall right back into the trap when it's presented with a different wrapper, but what is it that I'm doing that gives me a sense of accomplishment, of achievement? What am I doing that is worthwhile? Am I really so burned out at the end of the day that I don't want to do "X" or am I being lazy and getting faux fulfillment by pushing a button and getting a digital pellet? Garden needs work and now that I've fixed the fence (actual achievement) I'm willing to plant the cold weather seeds and begin growing the yummy edibles (real accomplishment). What are you doing each day that isn't a real accomplishment or achievement but rather garners you a participation trophy at best and is just really, ultimately a true waste of time? What could you or will you redirect your energies to? I'm not talking about down time and sometimes you just need to unwind and relax and the video game or the TV or the comic book is the way to do that. I'm talking about the fake rewards we pursue and acquire that take up time that could be spent elsewhere and actually productive? I know I'm going to be re-aligning my "free time".